Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Will The Democrats Win Back The House In November? With Steve Israel Calling The Shots?


I'm always Mr. Optimism. I was thinking that the DCCC might have learned something from the dismal back-to-back failures of the Great Blue Dog Apocalypse of 2010 (a stunning 63 seats lost, overwhelmingly by incumbents following DCCC directives to vote with the Republicans whenever possible) and then their pathetic failure to even come close to taking back the House last November, as they tried stocking up the caucus with the kind of right-wing corporate whores (Blue Dogs and New Dems) grassroots progressives don't want to support. Funny how the Tories in the U.K. seem more open to learning political lessons than our own out of touch ruling elites.

In a recent (paywalled) column for the Times of London, Matthew Parris (one of the finest political essayists alive today) made a seemingly obvious but striking observation: nearly all of those arguing that Cameron should become more radically right-wing are either non-elected pundits or members of parliament with very large majorities, who are unlikely to be voted out of parliament even in the event of a heavy Conservative defeat.

What about those Tory MPs with a precarious hold on their seats, who will actually have to fight for every vote?

So this week I decided to tune out the media noise, the striking of ideological positions and the microphone-grabbing of those with the most colourful opinions, and ask the view of that part of the Parliamentary Conservative Party who must work the hardest simply to keep their seats at the next election: the MPs with such slender majorities that they wake up in the night and sweat about where each vote will come from. MPs with numbers like 333 (Lancaster & Fleetwood), 214 (Sherwood) or 54 (N Warwickshire) tattooed on to their eyelids.

Let’s call them the Forty: the 40 most marginal Tory seats in Britain: held (many of them) by men and women we hardly seem to hear from. Or perhaps it would be fairer to say men and women we hardly seem to report-- and for a reason. Swashbuckling opinions are not a luxury most of them think they can afford. They’re walking on eggshells. They don’t think it’s easy.

The results of Parris' canvassing are highly informative, if unsurprising: they regard Cameron as an electoral asset and very wary of the economic radicalism being urged on him by his critics. I urge anyone with an interest in the future of British conservatism to read the whole thing. It's a side of the debate we simply haven't heard enough of, and the analogies to American politics should be obvious.
And now I'm hearing from Members of Congress on a consistent basis that Steve Israel and his crew are "recommending" that vulnerable freshmen vote with Boehner and Cantor as a default position. ConservaDems like Pete Gallego (the only Blue Dog freshman in Congress), lifelong Republican (and opportunist) Patrick Murphy, Gloria Negrete McLeod, Suzan DelBene, Ron Barber, and Ann Kirkpatrick (who's been on the anti-progressive tip over 75% of the time since she wormed her way back into Congress in November) hardly needed any pushing; they're conservatives to begin with. But even a few candidates who campaigned as progressives have been on the wrong side in over half the crucial roll calls, like Kyrsten Sinema, Ann Kuster and Raul Ruiz.

"But Steve Israel made me" doesn't cut the mustard and is not an acceptable excuse. A close friend who was one of Kuster's biggest individual donors in 2012 brought me the pathetic letter begging for money from him last week. He threw it away, of course, but wanted me to see it first so I could feel as sick as he did about how she turned out.

And here we go with the lame targeting again! The one minute on-line ad (above) they released about Ryan's Robin-Hood-in-reverse budget is very good and it makes the point real well. I can't image there's a district in the country where it would work better than in WI-01, Ryan's own lair, where Rob Zerban is running against him again. But here's the list of where the ad is being run:
AR-02             Tim Griffin
AR-04             Tom Cotton
CA-21             David Valadao
CA-31             Gary Miller
CO-06             Mike Coffman
IN-08              Larry Bucshon
MN-02            John Kline
MN-03            Erik Paulsen
NE-02             Lee Terry
NJ-03              Jon Runyan
NY-11             Michael Grimm
NY-23             Tom Reed
OH-14             David Joyce
OH-16             Jim Renacci
PA-08              Mike Fitzpatrick
VA-02             Scott Rigell
WA-03            Jaime Herrera Beutler
It was a good idea to run the ad against Mike Coffman in CO-06. For one thing, there's a Democratic candidate who's being backed by both the grassroots Democrats and the DCCC, Andrew Romanoff and he'll need all the help he can get in a very plausible district that Obama won in both 2008 and 2012 (51.6-46.5%) and where Coffman only managed to beat Democrat Joe Miklosi with less than half the votes. There's also a Democrat, Michael Wager, who tossed his hat in the ring against David Joyce in OH-14, another excellent target where Obama basically tied McCain in 2008 and only lost to Romney by 3 points. Joyce won the seat with 54% against an opponent with no financing whatsoever. None of the other DCCC targets have committed opponents yet.

Meanwhile. last cycle Rob Zerban-- with no help whatsoever from the DCCC-- managed to raise $2,265,721 and hold Ryan to only 55% of the vote, his worst showing ever-- even with a Ryan spending frenzy of $6,651,221. Even with GOP gerrymandering, Romney only managed to win 51.6% of the vote in the district. This morning I asked Zerban, who has an official Exploration Committee and is likely to declare soon, if he thinks the Ryan budget will hurt him among the district's voters. "We've had a Presidential Election that proved it," he told me, "and now a nationwide Rasmussen Poll and a Marquette Poll in Wisconsin, that confirm it-- people do not support the misguided principles of the Ryan Budget. The more the DCCC holds House Republicans feet to the fire, the sooner we can move on, as a nation, from the backward economic philosophies of Ayn Rand." He pointed to the Gallup poll findings released yesterday that indicate most Americans no longer trust Republicans like Ryan because of their unwillingness to compromise. Ryan and Romney ran on the Ryan budget and we're beaten. Now they're obstructing the president's agenda for fixing the economy and, obviously, still demanding the enactment of the rejected Ryan budget.

Let's hope the DCCC decides to hold Ryan's feet to the fire where it can do some real good-- in his own Wisconsin district. Rob Zerban will make a much better representative.

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